22 August 2014

TEACHING TEACHERS

Just catching my breath after our prep week--new website, new books, new classes, new schedule. Last year, there was no time to reflect with 6 classes, so I have to remember how to do that for this year. Here we go.

Our new school website, including a new course management tool, went live this week. I was among the presenters who introduced our "Academic Groups" pages to all the other teachers. Three meetings and many hours of play over the last three weeks set me up for Wednesday's 60 min preso to ~25 teachers plus the principal (gulp). I was on learner overload during the prep sessions! The process was a typical tech learning curve-nothing worked, the functionality went in and out, and the vendor kept turning the site on and off as we tried out all the features. But we had fun, and learned together, and even strategized how other teachers could be soothed when this stuff happened to them. Hardest class in the world to teach? TEACHERS.

So here is what I learned sitting in a tech lab with 5 other tech-y teachers. We are all alike in our curiosity, our willingness to screw up and laugh at it, and our desire to work together. At no other time during the year will I probably spend extended time with these folks--we all had different temperaments and areas of expertise. Didn't matter this summer. What mattered was the topic at hand and how many ways we could un-code the website. How this looked and sounded reminded me of exactly how my room looks when I throw out a challenge to a class and they have to solve the problem without me. It was loud, and we were all talking at once, and at least two people were rocking more than one device at a time. Everyone announced their superior approach the group at large, whether anyone asked or not. People jumped up to run across to check someone else's screen out whenever they needed to. All of this was happening while the Tech Director had a preso up on the Smartboard and was trying to present to us. We even laughed that we were 21st century learners-which was actually a snarky comment, since most of us at one time or another has made fun of people who still call it that--14 years into the 21st century.

But as I worked the room this week at the actual session, I noted at least three levels of comfort in the room with my colleagues. At the same time, I noticed some of my colleagues were unhappy with others yelling out questions or calling out successes. And there are always adults who are consternated by my room set up--not rows, more like mini centers. So if you are 50 years old and you are used to finding a seat near the front so you can be near the teacher, what do you do when there are 12 "front row" seats and the teacher does not stand still? I needed folks to help each other, since the class was so large. I sensed that most of the class was on target, but not everyone was happy. It is a vulnerable feeling to know that you are laying your teaching soul bare to other teachers who may not get your approach. And no teacher spends time in class describing why she teaches the way she does--the whole collaborative thing is CRITICAL for our kids, so my adult learners needed to test drive collaboration themselves. I hope that they got enough to work on their own. I won't be giving a test so they know how well they learned!
outline of exhausted teacher

2 comments:

Laura Blankenship said...

I have had this exact experience with teachers. I had enough in one group that wanted a "sit and get" kind of experience that I accommodated them, while noting that this group was going to be hard to prod toward a collaborative teaching approach.

It would be cool if you could get teachers to reflect on that discomfort and come to realize their own discomfort and start addressing it. Might be an interesting project. :)

Healigan said...

And it is telling that my only comment so far on this post is not from a teacher in my school--some of them are on Twitter, so the post is out there in the world. My students get commenting and RTing, but still working on my teacher family. Two folks have already emailed me to stop in and talk about it next week though, so that is a good thing. Thanks, Laura